MICHAEL Dunlop gave his home fans plenty to cheer about as he produced a virtuoso performance to dominate the feature races at Saturday’s superb Armoy road races.
Dunlop was in irresistible form as he obliterated the outright lap record with a searing average speed of 105.217mph at the three-mile Armoy circuit in the picturesque Glens of Antrim on his Street Sweep Kawasaki ZX-10.
He whetted the appetite of the partisan crowd with a faultless ride to victory in the 600cc Supersport race before stamping his authority on the meeting as he blasted to an electrifying double in the Superbike and showpiece ‘Race of Legends’.
A jubilant Dunlop said his terrific treble served as the perfect preparation for the McKinstry Skip Hire Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod on August 13.
“I really wanted to win the ‘Race of Legends’ because of what it means and once I got out on my own I pulled about four or five seconds,” he said.
“I opened a gap and then just played it safe from there without pushing too hard.
“I knew if I put in a couple of good, hard laps it would be enough to break them.
“The Superbike race was a tight race and I decided I needed to make a move because we were running out of laps, but once I got past [Michael] Pearson and [Ryan] Farquhar I put a hard lap in and opened up about a second on them and then just pushed from there.
“It’s nice to win in front of the home fans and it was a good day - there was a great atmosphere at Armoy and now I know what level I’m at before the Ulster Grand Prix.” The Superstock TT winner made an impromptu stop on the slowing down lap following his victory in the first Superbike race, leaving hundreds of fans scratching their heads when he popped into the local filling station on the village’s main street.
Afterwards, the Ballymoney lad explained: “Gary [Ryan, Dunlop’s sponsor] had run out of cigarettes and he asked me to stop at the shop on the slowing down lap, so I pulled in and I had a tenner in my leathers and went in and bought him some cigs.
“Gary can’t function without cigarettes so I thought I better go in and get him a packet and take them back to him.”
The seven-lap Superbike event was unquestionably one of the best national races of the year as Dunlop, Ryan Farquhar and Michael Pearson became embroiled in a titanic tussle for the lead.
Pearson on his D&G Wray BMW and Kawasaki rider Farquhar swapped positions in the early stages of the race with Dunlop within striking distance before he finally made the breakthrough to hit the front, upping the lap record to 105.217mph to pull away and win by 4.7 seconds from Farquhar with Pearson, who overshot at Robbo’s Corner in the village, taking third.
Guy Martin was fourth on the Relentless TAS Suzuki with the first six completed by William Dunlop and Derek Sheils.
Michael had an easier time of it in the ‘Race of Legends’ finale, which was brought forward as the organisers feared a change in the weather conditions, as he took a relatively untroubled victory by 4.9 seconds from the impressive Pearson with William Dunlop on Wilson Craig’s Superbike third.
Adrian Archibald was fourth ahead of newcomer Steve Mercer with Davy Morgan sixth. Farquhar, John Burrows and Guy Martin were forced to retire from the race with mechanical issues.
Michael was simply unstoppable in the Supersport class as he seized control and never looked back, establishing a new lap record of 101.729mph on his Yamaha R6 to take the win by 6.2 seconds from Farquhar with Martin third and the top six completed by Pearson, Derek Sheils and Ben Wylie.
William Dunlop won the 125cc race by 3.6 seconds from cousin Sam Dunlop and Jeff Shaw, while Davy Morgan took the 250cc honours after Dunlop limped across the line in fifth place with a machine problem. Ian Morrell was the runner-up from Barry Davidson.
Farquhar dominated the Supertwins race, winning by over 10 seconds from John Burrows and Wayne Hamilton, setting a new lap record of 94.881mph.
The Dungannon rider also tasted victory in the Moto450 race.
Ciaran Donnelly won the Junior Support race after Mark Hanna retired in the village, while the Senior Support victory went to Derek McGee from Ruben McPhee.
REPORT: KYLE WHITE